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'Should we all be a little more selfish?'

  • Comments (24)

I have noticed something in today’s NHS and it’s something I can only describe as ‘healthcare martyrdom’.

This pervasive culture which has permeated our hospitals makes nurses sacrifice their sanity on a regular basis.

Even before I started my nurse training I would notice staff on the ward missing their lunch break in order to finish some paperwork, or if they were to take a break they would sit in front of the computer with one hand on a sandwich and the other hand on a mouse.

I saw nurses who said that they hadn’t had a toilet break or a drink all day because there wasn’t the time. There were nurses who frequently stayed hours after their shift had finished at 9:30 PM only to be back at 7 the next morning. I’m sure that many students also can relate to this, not wanting to break the status quo and trying to give a good impression.

I’m think that this culture is dangerous and destructive.

So who is my priority? Is it my patients? My family? Or should it be me?

If we continue to put ourselves at the bottom of the list of priorities then we shall end up worn out and broken. We will become ill and tired before our time. We won’t be able to function or care for the patients that are the very reason we entered this profession in the first place.

If we started to put ourselves first on more occasions than I believe we will become more productive and compassionate nurses.

I’m not saying we should all become self-centred. But every day when I see nurses suffering I feel worried.

So take that two minute water break, go to the toilet if you need to and try to eat somewhere that doesn’t remind you of the work you have to do.

Because if you become unwell, who will be left to look after your patients?

  • Comments (24)

Readers' comments (24)

  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Anonymous - I have to say that is rather different to what I am use to and might be a little extreme to some. I think a good mix would be best.

    I think this is also a good cautionary tail of how management can affect the delicate ballence of a ward.

    Glad you managed to find your comment as it was fun to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Adam Roxby | 8-Dec-2011 6:26 pm

    Hi Adam
    I meant to mention that the ward referred to in the first para was a mental health ward. maybe the staff there have a different attitude and maybe it isn't even a new attitude that they have to look after themselves and leave on time regardless.

    I worked on acute medicine so maybe there is a difference and this was sometime ago now. It was hectic at times and sometimes there was a cardiac arrest or other emergency or even machines going wrong in the middle of a shift which one was involved with so it wasn't possible just to down tools and leave even though the remote coffee-drinking managers/bosses (upstairs in the the admin offices) seemed to think, and in fact ordered, we should. They were rather out of touch with reality at times even though the carried all the clout. Also we couldn't always just go and leave a nurse just coming on duty with all the work left over from a previous shift plus their own on the next one.

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  • Adam and Anonymous | 8-Dec-2011 7:31 pm, I do not think that the ward or the staff (mental health or otherwise) Anonymous | 8-Dec-2011 1:17 pm mentioned was extreme at all, to me it was staff working to rule, and rightly so. It is about time that Nurses realised that we are not the ONLY ones responsible for patient care, we cannot do everything, we are only human. We SHOULD do our shift and care for our patients to the best of our ability yes, but we should also take our breaks and leave ON TIME, because it is MANAGEMENTS responsibility to ensure that enough staff are there to take over to enable us to do so without it affecting patient care. Those that DO NOT do that, are simply allowing management to get away with unsafe staffing levels and skill mixes. Of course there are occassions such as emergencies where you wouldn't down tools and walk out, I have stayed over my time on occassion to deal with a crash or whatever, but I have ensured that I got that time back on break the next day. Why can't you leave the work left over to the next shift? It is called handing over in 24 hour care! It is management responsibility to ensure that there are enough staff, not yours to make up the shortfall!

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hey mike.

    I guess your right, I suppose it's extreme to me in that I find it rare. Perhaps with a new influx of nurses the culture can begin to change to make it the norm?

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  • Hi Adam, as a relatively newly qualified Nurse (last year) I have to say I agree with your last statement. I think a lot of older Nurses where this martyrdom was seen as a strange badge of honour for some reason I cannot fathom are retiring, and a lot (but strangely not all) 'younger' newly or recently qualified are less willing to accept conditions like this. I don't think it is selfish as much, but like Mike rightly says more like we are finally starting to stand up for ourselves. I hope as more and more of us start saying enough is enough, it will become the norm.

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  • Anonymous

    "Why can't you leave the work left over to the next shift? It is called handing over in 24 hour care!"

    because the next shift was sometimes only one nurse and besides if you had been involved in an emergency on the early afternoon shift you still had to order the pharmacy before it closed for the evening and at that time of day the computers were overloaded with other wards trying to do the same, and you had to finish off clerking any admissions and update any patients notes you may not have had time for if you had more urgent and practical nursing on your hands. it all depends how the work on the ward is organised and although managers were responsible for the coverage we were entirely responsible to the patients and our colleagues for our own work.

    If wards such as mental health and any other can find different methods of organisation and adequate staffing levels I do not disagree with mike | 9-Dec-2011 8:16 am and I hope since my time things have improved but it seems one just has to work with the resources one has, although I am sure you disagree with that!

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  • Adam Roxby

    Hello Lauren

    Firstly, congratulations on your qualification. I have actually found some of the 'worst offenders' to be in their 30's. Not sure why that would be the case. I think the majority of the older nurses I have know have just got worn out by it and want to think of their own health after so many years of neglect.
    Let me know how you get on.

    Hello Anonymous - You make a good point and I think we all agree that if a patient would be put directly at risk if you worked by the book then we would stay later etc. However if it was becoming routine then thats the time when things need to change. That shows that there is something wrong with the setup and you can't rely on the nurses and other staff to prop it up at the expense of their well being.

    Thanks for both of your comments.

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  • Anonymous

    There was a time when many nurses (not all) used to leave nursing when they had children and returned to work when said children were older. Nowdays it is all but impossible to run a home and raise children on one wage, therefore we have no choice but to juggle motherhood and nursing. I returned to work at 10 weeks post c section. I became a single parent 4 years later. It is becoming harder and harder to work within the hours I am given. In my last position another nurse, also a mother, asked me why I couldn't stay late that shift and when I explained why she continued to question my rationale. In the end I became quite cross with her, at which point she accused me of being rude. Would it have been more polite for me to just say "mind your own business" after the first question?!

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  • Anonymous

    those who worked part time and had children were always given the choice of which days off they wanted or justified that they needed. those of us who worked 100%, unmarried and without kids, had to cover the rest of these hours of the 24/24h 7/7d 14/14h fortnight whether we liked it or not, as if we had no priorities outside work or private or social lives at all. even though we had been told that to be better nurses we must broaden out outlook with cultural activities, sports, classes etc. and a good social life outside the workplace. Such activities often had to be cancelled, sometimes at very short notice, even though some were regular, already paid for and agreed with the ward in advance, in favour of those who needed the time off for their children.

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  • Anonymous

    From my position as a former ward manager ( now retired) all this sounds very familiar to me, and never more so than under the previous Conservative administration and especially around the time of the formation of NHS Trusts. I found myself going to work earlier, going home later, forgoing my lunch time and spending increasing amounts of my own time doing "things" that would "improve " the way in which I worked and trying (unsucessfully) to rduce my work load.
    One Sunday I opened a broadsheet newspaper and read an article by Professor Cary Cooper and it changed my attitude to work completely. After that I realised there was little point in making myself stressed and ill. If I couldn't do it in the time allotted then it waited until the next day, I got my lunch and I went home on time. I slackened off on my staff and put the focus on enjoying coming to work for them and me. It worked!
    Heres the gist of it.

    http://www.stressbusting.co.uk/articles/presenteeism-for-goodness-sake-go/

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